'Cool Running Creek'

'Cool Running Creek'

Saturday, June 30, 2007

3 Weeks Down

Well guys, the excitement just keeps coming with the interest in Medicine Man. On Wednesday afternoon we recaped on all lessons learned. I took the opportunity to work on his feet a little, more to clean out and clean up than anything else. If I molded the perfect foot, it would look like "Doc's." Strong outer wall, healthy frog, no soft spots, odors, or shallow heal. I plan to continue to operate "Doc" as the Shoeless Joe Jackson." This little man has it together. Being of sound mind and weak pockets, I do all my own hoof care unless I get into something I just don't understand. I have a super farrier friend, George, who has always provided me with great advice and suggestions when needed.
Thursday morning we were scheduled for a visit from Kim G. from NBC 17. Earlier, I took "Doc" for the first time out of the pasture and away from the barn. The pass from the pasture gate to the outside world again was a challenge for his comfort zone. To pass through the 4' gate into the drive took 5 minutes of forward and backward movement, smelling, looking and listening. We made it and the trip and I took him around the motorcycle trail for an adventure. From vehicles, trailers, 2 creeks, a pond, a pond dam, a sawmill, the house, the shop, plastic barrels, and other noises beyond his sight made "Doc" a nervous wreck. This trip took about an hour- total distance traveled, 4/10 mile. Then I took him back into the pasture for aquick spray off, some bug spray and then we waited. The TV crew arrived at 10:00 AM and "Doc" had regained his bravery. We ran him through his paces and wanted to share a new experience for the media. How about a blue tarp...I had planned on this taking 5-10 minutess but "Doc" had a different idea. His first step onto it caused him to walk on air! So, we advanced and retreated with a little help from the lunge whip (only very light taps behind the back to encourage forward movement). At one time he was challenged with the option of running over me or step on the mat, well this young man made himself thin as a rope and missed us both. I think the NBC news crew had a yee-haw at that . 1 foot on, then 2, then 3 and 4. Now let's rest. Back off, on, off, on and now no problem. We'll do this several more times over the next couple of days to assure him that tarps don't bite! We finished up under saddle, walking, trotting and loping in both directions. He's beginning to understand the left and right squeeze for direction, he continues to improve in lateral flexion, bending at the pole, with all this is still in a rope halter and lead rope. W'ell save the surprise for the telecast to be aired next Friday, July 6 on NBC 17 at 7 p.m. in their "Your Pet" segment. The video will also be available on their website. We completed the day with another bath and fly spray and turned the old man out to pasture.
Friday was met with another visitor, Helena M., another mustang enthusiast here in Chatham County. She was here for "Doc's" first day and wanted to check on his progress. Our training for the day was again just a recap on lessons learned finishing with a ride by Helena. I think she was impressed with his progress. As with all other days, he had another bath and then I turned him out to pasture.
Saturday, out of the pasture for a Medicine Man pictures, a visit from Carolina, the reporter from the N&O and her mom and rest. Not a bad 3rd week! Remember, week 4...A trail ride.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

An Amazing 3rd Week

Let’s try to catch up from last Friday. On Saturday, day 14, Medicine Man continued to amaze the masses. After his performance for the reporter, quite impressive I might say, we wanted to improve on his leading off the shoulder. I like for my horses to stay parallel on my left or right shoulder, about 1-2 feet away during movement. On start, stop, left and right turn, and backing, I want him to stay glued there. Starting with me on his left side and a little help from a lunge whip and the fence, “Doc” picked up the idea within 5 minutes. I only had to lay the tip of the lunge whip on his hip to get forward movement with a little clucking and a slight tug. He only showed slight concern of the lung whip moving around behind my back but it was enough to encourage forward movement. I wanted to accomplish good lead control before he was introduced to the “world beyond." After 15 minutes on each side, it was time. So, I opened the gate and “ let him go." Well, ok, a bit more controlled; it did take a few minutes of coaxing for him to realize there were no beasts beyond the confines of the ring, but the sight of green grass was too much! Five steps out and hmmmmmm, what a taste! I figured he has not tasted anything green since his capture, almost a year ago, and boy was this paradise! A walk around the fence line (I have all high tensile electric) so he saw his boundaries, and then turn him loose. I promise, if he moved out of a 50’ square box the entire afternoon I never saw it. No attention to his newly aquainted friends other than just the occasional glance, his mind was all GREEN. Throughout the remainder of the day, we would on occasionally just walk up to him, pick up his lead, move him a few steps and release him. The goal is to assure him that anyone can walk up to him without fear. Later that evening I returned him to his pen, a little sweet feed and good night. I did forget to mention he was given a friend to share his pen with, a 2 yo QH mare named Misty that Chapin is training. It took them a while to set the pecking order but “Doc” maintained his position and they continue to get along well.
Sunday was met with blazing temperatures, 95 and humid. Early morning we continued to work on leading and back out to the pasture. I did saddle him and did some work on turns and forward movement. I need to continue to focus on him giving to pressure along his sides to get a more responsive movement with signals from a rider, but I’m very satisfied with his efforts. Later in the evening, with the weather so hot, we figured a bath was in store. I brought him up to the barn and started with the water running on the ground from the hose. He was very weary of the sound more than the water, but did eventually investigate and drink from the water as it ran on the ground. With that I picked up the hose and created a spray with just my thumb and just sprayed all in front and sides being careful not to let the water hit “Doc”. After a few circles, me advancing and retreating he let me move the spray to his front feet. Still being somewhat thirsty from no water all afternoon, I decided to offer the water, still at a light spray about 2 feet in front of his face. Again, I’m very careful not to hit him with the water. Slowly, he advanced to the spray and begin to drink, when this started I knew this task was going to turn into a bath party. Within 5 minutes, he had the hose in his mouth, water spraying everywhere, including all over me, but was he ever enjoying this adventure! Over the next 15-20 minutes, we had washed his entire body, head to tail, under and over with “Doc” just wanting to play with the stream...Well, before the creek ran dry, we called it a day returned him to his pen with Misty. Another successful day!

Monday brought another blistering day and a reporter from the News and Observer, a popular paper from the Raleigh area. During the interview Medicine Man stood by Carolina, the reporter, with no lead and a most satisfied expression on his face. I think he is beginning to understand that all this attention is directed towards him. As Harry, the photographer, moved around inside the pen we lunged, led, backed, mounted bareback, and then with saddle...all the while “Doc” was a complete gentleman. We finished up the session with a “Doc” working on his balance with me on his back during movement. Seems he’s not quite use to the additional 185 lbs, but he’s making great strides daily. Today, Tuesday the 26th, he has a break due to a busy week. Wednesday the 27th we'll go to the shoe store for a trim. Stay tuned!
My plans for the remainder of the week are more introductions to the outside world for the first trail ride planned for week 4.

This water business might be pretty cool...

Mmmm, tasty!

Wilber, So how about a drink!

Friday, June 22, 2007

As week 2 comes to an end

It's been 5 days since the last update so bear with me as I bring you up to speed. After Father's Day, the weather here has been very hot and humid. Our best training time has been late evening prior to dark. Each evening this week we recapped an all lessons learned- 2 eyes, easy catch, leading, more desensitizing and giving to pressure along his shoulder, barrel and hip on both sides. I'm looking for yielding with just the slightest bit of touch. He now stands for several items including ropes, blankets, fishing poles, etc. with just the slightest bit of interest. Left and right yielding have also been a focus to soften that huge neck. Backing has become natural as well, with the slightest bit of pressure on the lead or hand signal. He very seldom freezes during leading and if so just a bit of direction change gets him moving again. Emily spent some time one evening on his face and this has really made a difference with haltering and brushing. Lunging is improving; he gives to the side pressure of the line and he's really keeping his head set toward the inside for direction. His left side is still better than the right on turns, but progress is being made each day.
Today, Friday, 22 Jun, we had a visit from the local newspaper, The Chatham News, for a possible story; the opportunity for something special moved itself up 1 day. Saddle time. I started with the blanket, (old hat) then moved to the surcingle (sorry 'bout the spelling) . Man, what a waste of time. He gave it no more attention than the falling sky. Next, the saddle. I started with a light child's saddle just putting on a removing it from both sides. I did it maybe 10 times without a cinch, just lots of flopping straps, sturrps, and latigos. Next came the real McCoy! He gave it little attention, even during the cinching up "til...I asked for him to lunge. I expected a bit of action so I kept a good hand on the rope and gave him his room. "My response was to try and jump right out from under this saddle; that didn't work so I'll try to out run those flapping sturrps, and they just moved as fast as me...hmmmm, what next? This binding thing around my waist, it just wouldn't loosen up...What do I do? I'll just try to stand still. Well what do 'ya know, it all went away." After 3-4 trips around the ring with a little pressure on the lunge line, Doc settled down and never gave it another thought...We changed direction with no problem. I guess all this prep work really pays off. I wanted to finish with a little weight in the saddle so I stepped up and down several times, both sides then mounted Medicine Man. Folks, this is the HORSE. No problem, I made sure he saw me from both eyes by flexing and he just stood as if he'd been doing if all his life. Guys, I just wish he was a bigger horse. I think he's going to be "train track proof." Tomorrow and Sunday I plan on ridding around the ring and then out into one of the smaller pastures. It's time he saw some more of Chatham County.

Medicine Man donning the surcingle

Cinching up for the first time...with little response...

Finally, a reaction! Even if short-lived...

Prepping for boarding...

Thatta Boy!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

And the fun just keeps on coming!

Day 8

With Father's Day on the horizion, and not knowing that the "Medicine Man" was a father or not, I kinda gave him the benefit of the doubt and decided for a light day. We just spent some relaxed time this evening just chilling. I did hang up some objects around his stall and placed a few play toys in the pen for him. Seems as if nothing scares him on his terms. He's pulled every rag, lunge line, lunge whip, rope and anything else he can get his mouth on. I did witness where all his water has been going. Seems he likes to play with and then pick up his water container and slosh it around 'til its empty. Maybe he just don't like the dogs drinking with him. I guess that's about it for now. Tomorrow? Lets just wait and see!

Day 7

Saturday was filled with a lot of opportunities to spend 5-10 minutes at a time with "Doc". I started off early morning 'r0und 7 working on the face. I found his sweet spot! Inside each ear, that's right, inside the edge and along the flap on each ear. He'll 'bout push you over bringing his head into you so you'll rub harder. Next session, around 10, I worked his right side and both feet. I was on and off his back laying, lunging, and leading him. I began another session at 1 with a fellow horse person, Molly B. She came by to see "Doc;" I had made the promise that Saturday would be the day to ride. With the horse flies in good full combat gear, we needed to give "Doc" a little relief. I first started with the spray bottle full of water and begain to mist the air. He really was into the mist and made several attemps to move just beyond the coverage. Within 5 minutes, I had covered both sided to include his rump and back legs. The next 5 minutes were with the real thing and, poof! no flies. I gave him a few minutes to dry off and on to our next adventure. Well, I had to make good on my word so "Doc's" first ride happened about 1:15 on day 7. You would have thought someone had drugged him; his response was so indiffrent I had to continually look at the brand to be sure I was on the same horse! Man, did we get lucky with this Mustang. Last session for the day was around 7 pm with more recap, flexing on both sides, and leading.

And he looks so relaxed!

5,000 miles and still treading...

Friday, June 15, 2007

More success/less time

Day 6
Wow, today was really great here in NC. This morning it was 65 and cloudy. A perfect day for horse training. I had just planned on recapping all lessons learned prior, but "Medicine Man" was really into the learning phase....I started with more focus on his right side and was able to advance and retreat across the pen with little and then no resistance. Things were going so well I just felt like a challenge. Within 5 minutes I had my entire weight on his back, neck, and hips. Off and on 15 times each side as long as I wished...No flies to bother him really makes the difference. My next goal was to complete the leading process so I passed this on to my son who really wants to have a hand in this project. By starting in small circles, getting both front and rear crossovers, really good training for future moves. Within 15-20 minutes, Chapin had him moving 7 or 8 steps forward, 30 minutes completely across a 55' round pen. We finished up with 5 minutes of lunge line work, walk, trot, and canter both directions. This has really come natural to Doc. Great success leads to an early rest for Doc, so halter off, early feed and hay and we let him relax for the remainder of the day. As we moved around his pen the rest of the day he became quite interested in wanting some contact...always looking at us. That's my reason for keeping him away from other horses. His only live contacts are humans and 3 dogs. (Sarge, my German Shepard has really taken a shine to Doc and always wants to share in his feedtime, he also likes sweet feed).

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Rainy Day Progress...

Day 5
This evening was blessed with a 45 min downpour that really made my training pen damp. Kinda limited me to much lunging...The first approach to "Doc" was met with a bit of rejection. After a couple of min's he let me touch his left side. I put his halter back on and moved directly to the right side for more desensitizing. We worked with his front feet more and could control the time we held them with little resistance. More constant rubbing has really brought him around. I began to lay across his back with 10-20 lbs of my body weight with no problems. As things moved along I worked with a white cloth on a stick with little problems so the 'ole Walmart plastic bag was next! New story...Boy, was he shy of the noise (it really sounds like a rattlesnake when shaken quickly). This took the remainder of the time for the day so we called it a day afterwards. Total time, 2 hours. ( A local newspaper was here today for a story on Medicine Man).

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Meet "Medicine Man"

OK guys, the time has come. I'm going to try to update you on the status of "Medicine Man," our Mustang Makeover project.

"Medicine Man"is named after his capture area in Maverick-Medicine, NV in July, 2006. Upon capture he was held in a containment area (large holding pens with little people contact) except for his trip to the Doctor for shots, guilding and a Coggins test. His feet were trimmed one time about 4 months ago in a squeeze chute. He was selected along with 99 other mustangs from the Bureau of Land Management National Wild Horse Burro Center at Palomino Valley, NV for the 'Extreme Mustang Makeover'. The EMM is a competition created by the Mustang Heritage Foundation and supported by the Bureau of Land Management to increase the interest in the wild mustang and its many uses.

Around the first of June he was shipped to Oklahoma City, OK where he was held for pick-up by a fellow trainer and transported to SC. We picked him up on Saturday after a 5 hr trip to Moncks Corner, SC. "Doc" as we'll call him for short, is a dark Bay with a star and snip on his face, two white spots on each rear hock wonderful black feet, huge hips and a working horse neck. He has good withers, a wide face and a small mustache just above his lip...The loading went well with him already separated from the other two mustangs earlier that day. Once being offered the open trailer he only challenged the entrance a couple of times before entering. (I hauled him in a 14' stock trailer back to Pittsboro.) During the trip back we stopped a couple of times to check on his status, finding him a bit on edge from the commotion along I-95. We arrived back home around 5:00 pm.

I was faced with a bit of a challenge after we got home because I wanted to remove his halter and lead rope. It is a requirement at any BLM agency to place a halter on all horses before being released to the new owner. (This is done in a confined chute where the horse has no moving room). After all the horror stories I've read, I just hate to leave a halter on a horse overnight. Deciding to take on this task while he was still in the trailer, I used a long wire to hook the lead rope, coax him towards the side and with little resistance from him I was able to settle him down and within a few minutes remove the halter. Was I surprised! This horse really has a mild disposition. We then released him in the training pen with an attached alley-way to a 12x24 covered shelter. Was he ever glad to get off the trailer. Head held high, stepping out with an attitude to take on the world! Seems as if water was his first priority with a roll in the arena afterwards. To me this is really a sign of a relaxed horse. With 6 people standing around the outside of the pen he still rolled...This was definitely a sign that he wasn't completely freaked out by our presence. We fed him some hay laced with sweet feed ( doesn't know that it is food...they don't have that in wild!) and left him alone for the remainder of the evening.

This trailer stuff is really getting old!

Day 2

The second day came with mostly just watching him adjust to his surroundings with the other horses within earshot. I know some folks like to give a new horse a buddy, but I kinda like to keep all his attention on humans for a time. He had a great deal of curiosity about my 3 dogs; they would share water without bother from either. After seeing how well he had adjusted, I decided to work with him later in the day. It was really hot during the day (92) so I waited until late evening. The first thing we did was round pen for approx 5-8 minutes. He has a wonderful gait, and gave me immediate attention in the middle. He showed his 2 sidedness quickly by only offering me his left side on turn arounds. Any turns to the left resulted in a quick outside turn. His attention to this lesson was wonderful. I was able to advance towards him during each rest period and able to close the distance to about 10 feet. As the evening approached I wanted to get my hands on him, so a lariat was the next step for a little control. His lack of shock when the rope went around his neck was a welcomed response. He responded with very little tension to square up to me as we progressed. In most cases, the rope was used to despook him by flipping it on his back, front and rear legs, hips etc to calm him down. All was going well and we were well on our way to voluntary contact and then it happened...It got dark! A lesson I learned with my first mustang is that they are a diffrent animal after the sun goes down. The predator vrs prey instinct comes out and everything is going to "eat them up." I really had to back down and give him his space. By 9:30 we have touched him several times by advancing and retreating with him standing unrestrained. I want to point at no time was he ever restrained. I only used the rope to keep him facing me. By 10:00 we had removed the numbered tag that identified him through BLM, removed the rope, and put on and off a halter several times, then put him to bed...I continued to notice that he was very one sided; he really protectes his right side. Probably came from the very limited human contact that was always on the left side. (Horses are really 2 sided, they have to be trained on each side to accept things) At no time would he offer his right side up to me. A challenge for another day.

Medicine Man taking it in on Day 2

Day 3
My son, Chapin, a 17 year old horse enthusiastic and part time trainer was going to catch "Medicine Man" with no aids. A halter and lead rope were his only tools. Repetition is the best training method I've found and after 10:00 pm on the night before we did not quite get all the bugs worked out. Chapin was able to put on the halter within 1 1/2 hours. That is surely a patient young man...We repeated this step 10-15 times to calm the storm and things went well. A thunder storm saved "Doc" from any further training for the day.

Day 4
My goal for today was to really work the right side equal to the left. This took quite a bit of advancing/retreating, rubbing, touching, and a lot of him backing. Emily, my 21 yo daughter, helped out quite a bit in this; we almost rubbed blisters on his right side with our hands, but in the end his right was just as soft as the left. Also, we have picked up both front feet on demand with little resistance from him. He will now stand as you approach, face you and only quivers when you first touch him after being left alone for a while. May not seem like much to us but to be four years old and have all this happen in the past week is really a cultural shock...Tomorrow: pick up his back feet, a full body massage, and leading!

5000 Miles and still tread!